For people of a certain age, Charleroi will ring a bell as being a place that English football hooligans smashed up a few years ago, I was careful to only speak French when I was there.
I’d taken advantage of the “Couchsurfing” network, and so was being put up by a lovely Belgian lady called Patricia, an artist. I arrived quite late on a Wednesday night and after a chat with my host till quite late I slept, impatient to go and visit another new city.
The day dawned, and after a healthy breakfast, my brilliant host Patricia gave me a list of things she thought I should see, including the photo museum and the coal mining museum. She also gave me a city street map and brochures for many tourist attractions.
The photo museum http://www.opt.be/informations/tourist-attractions-mont-sur-marchienne-museum-of-photography-in-charleroi/en/V/16750.html was a pleasant way to spend an hour or so, but the coal mining museum http://www.opt.be/informations/tourist-attractions-marcinelle-le-bois-du-cazier-mining-glass-and-industry-museums/en/V/39794.html was truly excellent. Its a history of coal mining in Belgium, also a glass manufacturing museum but it also enlightened me to a tragic incident that I’d never heard of before, a mine fire that killed hundreds, almost all of them Italian migrants. When I got back home I spoke to Patricia about it and she told me her grandfather had been one of the Italian mine workers, although he survived. This little idea has given me an idea for a novel which may well see the light of day sometime during my lifetime.
It was cold. To show how cold it was, this is a picture of the Sambre river that runs through the city.
After the museums, and a moules frites dinner (lunch if you’re posh) I then did my tourist bit around the city centre. Some beautiful buildings around and I really did enjoy a pootle around on my own taking in the wonderful facades around the city.
The train station is a wonderful edifice. Fairly recent but its built sympathetically, in accordance with the local architecture.
Shame on me, I cant remember the name of the church, but its in a main square a few streets down from the commercial centre.
The town hall if memory serves.
Due to family reasons I only spent about 36 hours in the city, but I will definitely come back and pay a longer visit to see more.